THE TENOR

A Comedy

By Frank Wedekind
Translated by André Tridon.


Copyright, 1913, by André Tridon.
All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS

Gerardo [Wagnerian tenor, thirty-six years old].
Helen Marova [a beautiful dark-haired woman of twenty-five].
Professor Duhring [sixty, the typical "misunderstood genius"].
Miss Isabel Cœhurne [a blonde English girl of sixteen].
Muller [hotel manager].
A Valet.
A Bell Boy.
An Unknown Woman.

Time: The present.

Place: A city in Austria.

 

The Tenor was first produced in America by the Washington Square Players. Applications for permission to perform The Tenor must be addressed to André Tridon, 121 Madison Avenue, New York.


THE TENOR

A Comedy

By Frank Wedekind

 

[Scene: A large hotel room. There are doors at the right and in the center, and at the left a window with heavy portières. Behind a grand piano at the right stands a Japanese screen which conceals the fireplace. There are several large trunks, open; bunches of flowers are all over the room; many bouquets are piled up on the piano.]

 

Valet [entering from the adjoining room carrying an armful of clothes which he proceeds to pack in one of the trunks. There is a knock at the door]. Come in.

Bell Boy. There is a lady who wants to know if the Maestro is in.

Valet. He isn't in. [Exit Bell Boy. The Valet goes into the adjoining room and returns with another armful of clothes. There is another knock at the door. He puts the clothes on a chair and goes to the door.] What's this again? [He opens the door and some one hands him several large bunches of flowers, which he places carefully on the piano; then he goes back to his packing. There is another knock. He opens the door and takes a handful of letters. He glances at the addresses and reads aloud: "Mister Gerardo. Monsieur Gerardo. Gerardo Esquire. Signor Gerardo." [He drops the letters on a tray and resumes his packing.]

[Enter Gerardo.]

Gerardo. Haven't you finished packing yet? How much longer will it take you?

Valet. I'll be through in a minute, sir.

Gerardo. Hurry! I still have things to do. Let me see. [He reaches for something in a trunk.] God Almighty! Don't you know how to fold a pair of trousers? [Taking the trousers out.] This is what you call packing! Look here! You still have something to learn from me, after all. You take the trousers like this.... You lock this up here.... Then you take hold of these buttons. Watch these buttons here, that's the important thing. Then—you pull them straight.... There.... There.... Then you fold them here.... See.... Now these trousers would keep their shape for a hundred years.

Valet [respectfully, with downcast eyes]. You must have been a tailor once, sir.

Gerardo. What! Well, not exactly.... [He gives the trousers to the Valet.] Pack those up, but be quick about it. Now about that train. You are sure this is the last one we can take?

Valet. It is the only one that gets you there in time, sir. The next train does not reach Brussels until ten o'clock.

Gerardo. Well, then, we must catch this one. I will just have time to go over the second act. Unless I go over that.... Now don't let anybody.... I am out to everybody.

Valet. All right, sir. There are some letters for you, sir.

Gerardo. I have seen them.

Valet. And flowers!

Gerardo. Yes. all right. [He takes the letters from the tray and throws them on a chair before the piano. Then he opens the letters, glances over them with beaming eyes, crumples them up and throws them under the chair.] Remember! I am out to everybody.

Valet. I know, sir. [He locks the trunks.]

Gerardo. To everybody.

Valet. You needn't worry, sir. [Giving him the trunk keys.] Here are the keys, sir.

Gerardo [pocketing the keys]. To everybody!

Valet. The trunks will be taken down at once. [He goes out.]

Gerardo [looking at his watch]. Forty minutes. [He pulls the score of "Tristan" from underneath the flowers on the piano and walks up and down humming.] "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein? Hab' ich dich wieder? Darf ich dich fassen?" [He clears his throat, strikes a chord on the piano and starts again.] "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein? Hab' ich dich wieder?..." [He clears his throat.] The air is dead here. [He sings.] "Isolde! Geliebte...." It's oppressive here. Let's have a little fresh air. [He goes to the window at the left and fumbles for the curtain cord.] Where is the thing? On the other side! Here! [He pulls the cord and throws his head back with an annoyed expression when he sees Miss Cœurne.]

Miss Cœurne [in three-quarter length skirt, her blonde hair down her back, holding a bunch of red roses; she speaks with an English accent and looks straight at Gerardo]. Oh, please don't send me away.

Gerardo. What else can I do? God knows, I haven't asked you to come here. Do not take it badly, dear young lady, but I have to sing to-morrow night in Brussels. I must confess, I hoped I would have this half-hour to myself. I had just given positive orders not to let any one, whoever it might be, come up to my rooms.

Miss Cœurne [coming down stage]. Don't send me away. I heard you yesterday in "Tannhäuser," and I was just bringing you these roses, and—

Gerardo. And—and what?

Miss Cœurne. And myself.... I don't know whether you understand me.

Gerardo [holding the back of a chair; he hesitates, then shakes his head.] Who are you?

Miss Cœurne. My name is Miss Cœurne.

Gerardo. Yes.... Well?

Miss Cœurne. I am very silly.

Gerardo. I know. Come here, my dear girl. [He sits down in an armchair and she stands before him.] Let's have a good earnest talk, such as you have never had in your life—and seem to need. An artist like myself—don't misunderstand me; you are—how old are you?

Miss Cœurne. Twenty-two.

Gerardo. You are sixteen or perhaps seventeen. You make yourself a little older so as to appear more—tempting. Well? Yes, you are very silly. It is really none of my business, as an artist, to cure you of your silliness.... Don't take this badly.... Now then! Why are you staring away like this?

Miss Cœurne. I said I was very silly, because I thought you Germans liked that in a young girl.

Gerardo. I am not a German, but just the same....

Miss Cœurne. What! I am not as silly as all that.

Gerardo. Now look here, my dear girl—you have your tennis court, your skating club; you have your riding class, your dances; you have all a young girl can wish for. What on earth made you come to me?

Miss Cœurne. Because all those things are awful, and they bore me to death.

Gerardo. I will not dispute that. Personally, I must tell you, I know life from an entirely different side. But, my child, I am a man; I am thirty-six. The time will come when you, too, will claim a fuller existence. Wait another two years and there will be some one for you, and then you won't need to—hide yourself behind curtains, in my room, in the room of a man who—never asked you, and whom you don't know any better than—the whole continent of Europe knows him—in order to look at life from his—wonderful point of view. [Miss Cœurne sighs deeply.] Now then ... Many thanks from the bottom of my heart for your roses. [He presses her hand.] Will this do for to-day?

Miss Cœurne. I had never in all my life thought of a man, until I saw you on the stage last night in "Tannhäuser." And I promise you—

Gerardo. Oh, don't promise me anything, my child. What good could your promise do me? The burden of it would all fall upon you. You see, I am talking to you as lovingly as the most loving father could. Be thankful to God that with your recklessness you haven't fallen into the hands of another artist. [He presses her hand again.] Let this be a lesson to you and never try it again.

Miss Cœurne [holding her handkerchief to her face but shedding no tears]. Am I so homely?

Gerardo. Homely! Not homely, but young and indiscreet. [He rises nervously, goes to the right, comes back, puts his arm around her waist and takes her hand.] Listen to me, child. You are not homely because I have to be a singer, because I have to be an artist. Don't misunderstand me, but I can't see why I should simply, because I am an artist, have to assure you that I appreciate your youthful freshness and beauty. It is a question of time. Two hundred, maybe three hundred, nice, lovely girls of your age saw me last night in the rôle of Tannhäuser. Now if every one of those girls made the same demands upon me which you are making—what would become of my singing? What would become of my voice? What would become of my art?

[Miss Cœurne sinks into a seat, covers her face and weeps.]

Gerardo [leaning over the back of her chair, in a friendly tone]. It is a crime for you, child, to weep over the fact that you are still so young. Your whole life is ahead of you. Is it my fault if you fell in love with me? They all do. That is what I am for. Now won't you be a good girl and let me, for the few minutes I have left, prepare myself for to-morrow's appearance?

Miss Cœurne [rising and drying her tears]. I can't believe that any other girl would have acted the way I have.

Gerardo [leading her to the door]. No, dear child.

Miss Cœurne [with sobs in her voice]. At least, not if—

Gerardo. If my valet had stood before the door.

Miss Cœurne. If—

Gerardo. If the girl had been as beautiful and youthfully fresh as you.

Miss Cœurne. If—

Gerardo. If she had heard me only once in "Tannhäuser."

Miss Cœurne [indignant]. If she were as respectable as I am!

Gerardo [pointing to the piano]. Before saying good-by to me, child, have a look at all those flowers. May this be a warning to you in case you feel tempted again to fall in love with a singer. See how fresh they all are. And I have to let them wither, dry up, or I give them to the porter. And look at those letters. [He takes a handful of them from a tray.] I don't know any of those women. Don't worry; I leave them all to their fate. What else could I do? But I'll wager with you that every one of your lovely young friends sent in her little note.

Miss Cœurne. Well, I promise not to do it again, not to hide myself behind your curtains. But don't send me away.

Gerardo. My time, my time, dear child. If I were not on the point of taking a train! I have already told you, I am very sorry for you. But my train leaves in twenty-five minutes. What do you expect?

Miss Cœurne. A kiss.

Gerardo [stiffening up]. From me?

Miss Cœurne. Yes.

Gerardo [holding her around the waist and looking very serious]. You rob Art of its dignity, my child. I do not wish to appear an unfeeling brute, and I am going to give you my picture. Give me your word that after that you will leave me.

Miss Cœurne. Yes.

Gerardo. Good. [He sits at the table and autographs one of his pictures.] You should try to become interested in the operas themselves instead of the men who sing them. You would probably derive much greater enjoyment.

Miss Cœurne [to herself]. I am too young yet.

Gerardo. Sacrifice yourself to music. [He comes down stage and gives her the picture.] Don't see in me a famous tenor but a mere tool in the hands of a noble master. Look at all the married women among your acquaintances. All Wagnerians. Study Wagner's works; learn to understand his leit motifs. That will save you from further foolishness.

Miss Cœurne. I thank you.

[Gerardo leads her out and rings the bell. He takes up his piano score again. There is a knock at the door.]

Valet [coming in out of breath]. Yes, sir.

Gerardo. Are you standing at the door?

Valet. Not just now, sir.

Gerardo. Of course not! Be sure not to let anybody come up here.

Valet. There were three ladies who asked for you, sir.

Gerardo. Don't you dare to let any one of them come up, whatever she may tell you.

Valet. And then here are some more letters.

Gerardo. Oh, all right. [The Valet places the letters on a tray.] And don't you dare to let any one come up.

Valet [at the door]. No, sir.

Gerardo. Even if she offers to settle a fortune upon you.

Valet. No, sir. [He goes out.]

Gerardo [singing]. "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du...." Well, if women don't get tired of me—Only the world is so full of them; and I am only one man. Every one has his burden to carry. [He strikes a chord on the piano.]

[Prof. Duhring, dressed all in black, with a long white beard, a red hooked nose, gold spectacles, Prince Albert coat and silk hat, an opera score under his arm, enters without knocking.]

Gerardo. What do you want?

Duhring. Maestro—I—I—have—an opera.

Gerardo. How did you get in?

Duhring. I have been watching for two hours for a chance to run up the stairs unnoticed.

Gerardo. But, my dear good man, I have no time.

Duhring. Oh, I will not play the whole opera for you.

Gerardo. I haven't the time. My train leaves in forty minutes.

Duhring. You haven't the time! What should I say? You are thirty and successful. You have your whole life to live yet. Just listen to your part in my opera. You promised to listen to it when you came to this city.

Gerardo. What is the use? I am not a free agent—

Duhring. Please! Please! Please! Maestro! I stand before you an old man, ready to fall on my knees before you; an old man who has never cared for anything in the world but his art. For fifty years I have been a willing victim to the tyranny of art—

Gerardo [interrupting him]. Yes, I understand; I understand, but—

Duhring [excitedly]. No, you don't understand. You could not understand. How could you, the favorite of fortune, you understand what fifty years of bootless work means? But I will try to make you understand it. You see, I am too old to take my own life. People who do that do it at twenty-five, and I let the time pass by. I must now drag along to the end of my days. Please, sir, please don't let these moments pass in vain for me, even if you have to lose a day thereby, a week even. This is in your own interest. A week ago, when you first came for your special appearances, you promised to let me play my opera for you. I have come here every day since; either you had a rehearsal or a woman caller. And now you are on the point of going away. You have only to say one word: I will sing the part of Hermann—and they will produce my opera. You will then thank God for my insistance.... Of course you sing Siegfried, you sing Florestan—but you have no rôle like Hermann in your repertoire, no rôle better suited to your middle register.

[Gerardo leans against the mantelpiece; while drumming on the top with his right hand, he discovers something behind the screen; he suddenly stretches out his arm and pulls out a woman in a gray gown, whom he leads out of the room through the middle door; after closing the door, he turns to Duhring.]

Gerardo. Oh, are you still there?

Duhring [undisturbed]. This opera is good; it is dramatic; it is a financial success. I can show you letters from Liszt, from Wagner, from Rubinstein, in which they consider me as a superior man. And why hasn't any opera ever been produced? Because I am not crying wares on the market-place. And then you know our directors: they will revive ten dead men before they give a live man a chance. Their walls are well guarded. At thirty you are in. At sixty I am still out. One word from you and I shall be in, too. This is why I have come, and [raising his voice] if you are not an unfeeling brute, if success has not killed in you the last spark of artistic sympathy, you will not refuse to hear my work.

Gerardo. I will give you an answer in a week. I will go over your opera. Let me have it.

Duhring. No, I am too old, Maestro. In a week, in what you call a week, I shall be dead and buried. In a week—that is what they all say; and then they keep it for years.

Gerardo. I am very sorry but—

Duhring. To-morrow perhaps you will be on your knees before me; you will boast of knowing me ... and to-day, in your sordid lust for gold, you cannot even spare the half-hour which would mean the breaking of my fetters.

Gerardo. No, really, I have only thirty-five minutes left, and unless I go over a few passages.... You know I sing Tristan in Brussels to-morrow night. [He pulls out his watch.] I haven't even half an hour....

Duhring. Half an hour.... Oh, then, let me play to you your big aria at the end of the first act. [He attempts to sit down on the piano bench. Gerardo restrains him.]

Gerardo. Now, frankly, my dear sir ... I am a singer; I am not a critic. If you wish to have your opera produced, address yourself to those gentlemen who are paid to know what is good and what is not. People scorn and ignore my opinions in such matters as completely as they appreciate and admire my singing.

Duhring. My dear Maestro, you may take it from me that I myself attach no importance whatever to your judgment. What do I care about your opinions? I know you tenors; I would like to play my score for you so that you could say: "I would like to sing the rôle of Hermann."

Gerardo. If you only knew how many things I would like to do and which I have to renounce, and how many things I must do for which I do not care in the least! Half a million a year does not repay me for the many joys of life which I must sacrifice for the sake of my profession. I am not a free man. But you were a free man all your life. Why didn't you go to the market-place and cry your wares?

Duhring. Oh, the vulgarity of it.... I have tried it a hundred times. I am a composer, Maestro, and nothing more.

Gerardo. By which you mean that you have exhausted all your strength in the writing of your operas and kept none of it to secure their production.

Duhring. That is true.

Gerardo. The composers I know reverse the process. They get their operas written somehow and then spend all their strength in an effort to get them produced.

Duhring. That is the type of artist I despise.

Gerardo. Well, I despise the type of man that wastes his life in useless endeavor. What have you done in those fifty years of struggle, for yourself or for the world? Fifty years of useless struggle! That should convince the worst blockhead of the impracticability of his dreams. What have you done with your life? You have wasted it shamefully. If I had wasted my life as you have wasted yours—of course I am only speaking for myself—I don't think I should have the courage to look any one in the face.

Duhring. I am not doing it for myself; I am doing it for my art.

Gerardo [scornfully]. Art, my dear man! Let me tell you that art is quite different from what the papers tell us it is.

Duhring. To me it is the highest thing in the world.

Gerardo. You may believe that, but nobody else does. We artists are merely a luxury for the use of the bourgeoisie. When I stand there on the stage I feel absolutely certain that not one solitary human being in the audience takes the slightest interest in what we, the artists, are doing. If they did, how could they listen to "Die Walküre," for instance? Why, it is an indecent story which could not be mentioned anywhere in polite society. And yet, when I sing Siegmund, the most puritanical mothers bring their fourteen-year-old daughters to hear me. This, you see, is the meaning of whatever you call art. This is what you have sacrificed fifty years of your life to. Find out how many people came to hear me sing and how many came to gape at me as they would at the Emperor of China if he should turn up here to-morrow. Do you know what the artistic wants of the public consist in? To applaud, to send flowers, to have a subject for conversation, to see and be seen. They pay me half a million, but then I make business for hundreds of cabbies, writers, dressmakers, restaurant keepers. It keeps money circulating; it keeps blood running. It gets girls engaged, spinsters married, wives tempted, old cronies supplied with gossip; a woman loses her pocketbook in the crowd, a fellow becomes insane during the performance. Doctors, lawyers made.... [He coughs.] And with this I must sing Tristan in Brussels to-morrow night! I tell you all this, not out of vanity, but to cure you of your delusions. The measure of a man's worth is the world's opinion of him, not the inner belief which one finally adopts after brooding over it for years. Don't imagine that you are a misunderstood genius. There are no misunderstood geniuses.

Duhring.. Let me just play to you the first scene of th second act. A park landscape as in the painting, "Embarkation for the Isle of Cythera."

Gerardo. I repeat to you I have no time. And furthermore, since Wagner's death the need for new operas has never been felt by any one. If you come with new music, you set against yourself all the music schools, the artists, the public. If you want to succeed just steal enough out of Wagner's works to make up a whole opera. Why should I cudgel my brains with your new music when I have cudgeled them cruelly with the old?

Duhring [holding out his trembling hand]. I am afraid I am too old to learn how to steal. Unless one begins very young, one can never learn it.

Gerardo. Don't feel hurt. My dear sir—if I could.... The thought of how you have to struggle.... I happen to have received some five hundred marks more than my fee....

Duhring [turning to the door]. Don't! Please don't! Do not say that. I did not try to show you my opera in order to work a touch. No, I think too much of this child of my brain.... No, Maestro.

[He goes out through the center door.]

Gerardo [following him to the door]. I beg your pardon.... Pleased to have met you.

[He closes the door and sinks into an armchair. A voice is heard outside: "I will not let that man step in my way." Helen rushes into the room followed by the Valet. She is an unusually beautiful young woman in street dress.]

Helen. That man stood there to prevent me from seeing you!

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. You knew that I would come to see you.

Valet [rubbing his cheek]. I did all I could, sir, but this lady actually—

Helen. Yes, I slapped his face.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Should I have let him insult me?

Gerardo [to the Valet]. Please leave us.

[The Valet goes out.]

Helen [placing her muff on a chair]. I can no longer live without you. Either you take me with you or I will kill myself.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Yes, kill myself. A day like yesterday, without even seeing you—no, I could not live through that again. I am not strong enough. I beseech you, Oscar, take me with you.

Gerardo. I couldn't.

Helen. You could if you wanted to. You can't leave me without killing me. These are not mere words. This isn't a threat. It is a fact: I will die if I can no longer have you. You must take me with you—it is your duty—if only for a short time.

Gerardo. I give you my word of honor, Helen, I can't—I give you my word.

Helen. You must, Oscar. Whether you can or not, you must bear the consequences of your acts. I love life, but to me life and you are one and the same thing. Take me with you, Oscar, if you don't want to have my blood on your hands.

Gerardo. Do you remember what I said to you the first day we were together here?

Helen. I remember, but what good does that do me?

Gerardo. I said that there couldn't be any question of love between us.

Helen. I can't help that. I didn't know you then. I never knew what a man could be to me until I met you. You know very well that it would come to this, otherwise you wouldn't have obliged me to promise not to make you a parting scene.

Gerardo. I simply cannot take you with me.

Helen. Oh, God! I knew you would say that! I knew it when I came here. That's what you say to every woman. And I am just one of a hundred. I know it. But, Oscar, I am lovesick; I am dying of love. This is your work, and you can save me without any sacrifice on your part, without assuming any burden. Why can't you do it?

Gerardo [very slowly]. Because my contract forbids me to marry or to travel in the company of a woman.

Helen [disturbed]. What can prevent you?

Gerardo. My contract.

Helen. You cannot....

Gerardo. I cannot marry until my contract expires.

Helen. And you cannot....

Gerardo. I cannot travel in the company of a woman.

Helen. That is incredible. And whom in the world should it concern?

Gerardo. My manager.

Helen. Your manager! What business is it of his?

Gerardo. It is precisely his business.

Helen. Is it perhaps because it might—affect your voice?

Gerardo. Yes.

Helen. That is preposterous. Does it affect your voice?

[Gerardo chuckles.]

Helen. Does your manager believe that nonsense?

Gerardo. No, he doesn't.

Helen. This is beyond me. I can't understand how a decent man could sign such a contract.

Gerardo. I am an artist first and a man next.

Helen. Yes, that's what you are—a great artist—an eminent artist. Can't you understand how much I must love you? You are the first man whose superiority I have felt and whom I desired to please, and you despise me for it. I have bitten my lips many a time not to let you suspect how much you meant to me; I was so afraid I might bore you. Yesterday, however, put me in a state of mind which no woman can endure. If I didn't love you so insanely, Oscar, you would think more of me. That is the terrible thing about you—that you must scorn a woman who thinks the world of you.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Your contract! Don't use your contract as a weapon to murder me with. Let me go with you, Oscar. You will see if your manager ever mentions a breach of contract. He would not do such a thing. I know men. And if he says a word, it will be time then for me to die.

Gerardo. We have no right to do that, Helen. You are just as little free to follow me, as I am to shoulder such a responsibility. I don't belong to myself; I belong to my art.

Helen. Oh, leave your art alone. What do I care about your art? Has God created a man like you to make a puppet of himself every night? You should be ashamed of it instead of boasting of it. You see, I overlooked the fact that you were merely an artist. What wouldn't I overlook for a god like you? Even if you were a convict, Oscar, my feelings would be the same. I would lie in the dust at your feet and beg for your pity. I would face death as I am facing it now.

Gerardo [laughing]. Facing death, Helen! Women who are endowed with your gifts for enjoying life don't make away with themselves. You know even better than I do the value of life.

Helen [dreamily]. Oscar, I didn't say that I would shoot myself. When did I say that? Where would I find the courage to do that? I only said that I will die, if you don't take me with you. I will die as I would of an illness, for I only live when I am with you. I can live without my home, without my children, but not without you, Oscar. I cannot live without you.

Gerardo. Helen, if you don't calm yourself.... You put me in an awful position.... I have only ten minutes left.... I can't explain in court that your excitement made me break my contract.... I can only give you ten minutes.... If you don't calm yourself in that time.... I can't leave you alone in this condition. Think all you have at stake!

Helen. As though I had anything else at stake!

Gerardo. You can lose your position in society.

Helen. I can lose you!

Gerardo. And your family?

Helen. I care for no one but you.

Gerardo. But I cannot be yours.

Helen. Then I have nothing to lose but my life.

Gerardo. Your children!

Helen. Who has taken me from them, Oscar? Who has taken me from my children?

Gerardo. Did I make any advances to you?

Helen [passionately]. No, no. I have thrown myself at you, and would throw myself at you again. Neither my husband nor my children could keep me back. When I die, at least I will have lived; thanks to you, Oscar! I thank you, Oscar, for revealing me to myself. I thank you for that.

Gerardo. Helen, calm yourself and listen to me.

Helen. Yes, yes, for ten minutes.

Gerardo. Listen to me. [Both sit down on the divan.]

Helen [staring at him]. Yes, I thank you for it.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. I don't even ask you to love me. Let me only breathe the air you breathe.

Gerardo[trying to be calm]. Helen—a man of my type cannot be swayed by any of the bourgeois ideas. I have known society women in every country of the world. Some made parting scenes to me, but at least they all knew what they owed to their position. This is the first time in my life that I have witnessed such an outburst of passion.... Helen, the temptation comes to me daily to step with some woman into an idyllic Arcadia. But every human being has his duties; you have your duties as I have mine, and the call of duty is the highest thing in the world....

Helen. I know better than you do what the highest duty is.

Gerardo. What, then? Your love for me? That's what they all say. Whatever a woman has set her heart on winning is to her good; whatever crosses her plans is evil. It is the fault of our playwrights. To draw full houses they set the world upside down, and when a woman abandons her children and her family to follow her instincts they call that—oh, broad-mindedness. I personally wouldn't mind living the way turtle doves live. But since I am a part of this world I must obey my duty first. Then whenever the opportunity arises I quaff of the cup of joy. Whoever refuses to do his duty has no right to make any demands upon another fellow being.

Helen [staring absent-mindedly]. That does not bring the dead back to life.

Gerardo [nervously]. Helen, I will give you back your life. I will give you back what you have sacrificed for me. For God's sake take it. What does it come to, after all? Helen, how can a woman lower herself to that point? Where is your pride? What am I in the eyes of the world? A man who makes a puppet of himself every night! Helen, are you going to kill yourself for a man whom hundreds of women loved before you, whom hundreds of women will love after you without letting their feelings disturb their life one second? Will you, by shedding your warm red blood, make yourself ridiculous before God and the world?

Helen [looking away from him]. I know I am asking a good deal, but—what else can I do?

Gerardo. Helen, you said I should bear the consequences of my acts. Will you reproach for not refusing to receive you when you first came here, ostensibly to ask me to try your voice? What can a man do in such a case? You are the beauty of this town. Either I would be known as the bear among artists who denies himself to all women callers, or I might have received you and pretended that I didn't understand what you meant and then pass for a fool. Or the very first day I might have talked to you as frankly as I am talking now. Dangerous business. You would have called me a conceited idiot. Tell me, Helen—what else could I do?

Helen [staring at him with, imploring eyes, shuddering and making an effort to speak]. O God! O God! Oscar, what would you say if to-morrow I should go and be as happy with another man as I have been with you? Oscar—what would you say?

Gerardo [after a silence]. Nothing. [He looks at his watch.] Helen—

Helen. Oscar! [She kneels before him.] For the last time, I implore you.... You don't know what you are doing.... It isn't your fault—but don't let me die.... Save me—save me!

Gerardo [raising her up]. Helen, I am not such a wonderful man. How many men have you known? The more men you come to know, the lower all men will fall in your estimation. When you know men better you will not take your life for any one of them. You will not think any more of them than I do of women.

Helen. I am not like you in that respect.

Gerardo. I speak earnestly, Helen. We don't fall in love with one person or another; we fall in love with our type, which we find everywhere in the world if we only look sharply enough.

Helen. And when we meet our type, are we sure then of being loved again?

Gerardo [angrily]. You have no right to complain of your husband. Was any girl ever compelled to marry against her will? That is all rot. It is only the women who have sold themselves for certain material advantages and then try to dodge their obligations who try to make us believe that nonsense.

Helen [smiling]. They break their contracts.

Gerardo [pounding his chest]. When I sell myself, at least I am honest about it.

Helen. Isn't love honest?

Gerardo. No! Love is a beastly bourgeois virtue. Love is the last refuge of the mollycoddle, of the coward. In my world every man has his actual value, and when two human beings make up a pact they know exactly what to expect from each other. Love has nothing to do with it, either.

Helen. Won't you lead me into your world, then?

Gerardo. Helen, will you compromise the happiness of your life and the happiness of your dear ones for just a few days' pleasure?

Helen. No.

Gerardo [much relieved]. Will you promise me to go home quietly now?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. And will you promise me that you will not die....

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. You promise me that?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. And you promise me to fulfill your duties as mother and—as wife?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Yes. What else do you want? I will promise anything.

Gerardo. And now may I go away in peace?

Helen [rising]. Yes.

Gerardo. A last kiss?

Helen. Yes, yes, yes. [They kiss passionately.]

Gerardo. In a year I am booked again to sing here, Helen.

Helen. In a year! Oh, I am glad!

Gerardo [tenderly]. Helen!

[Helen presses his hand, takes a revolver out of her muff, shoots herself and falls.]

Gerardo. Helen! [He totters and collapses in an armchair.]

Bell Boy [rushing in]. My God! Mr. Gerardo! [Gerardo remains motionless; the Bell Boy rushes toward Helen.]

Gerardo [jumping up, running to the door and colliding with the manager of the hotel]. Send for the police! I must be arrested! If I went away now I should be a brute, and if I stay I break my contract. I still have [looking at his watch] one minute and ten seconds.

Manager. Fred, run and get a policeman.

Bell Boy. All right, sir.

Manager. Be quick about it. [To Gerardo.] Don't take it too hard, sir. Those things happen once in a while.

Gerardo [kneeling before Helen's body and taking her hand]. Helen!... She still lives—she still lives! If I am arrested I am not wilfully breaking my contract.... And my trunks? Is the carriage at the door?

Manager. It has been waiting twenty minutes, Mr. Gerardo. [He opens the door for the porter, who takes down one of the trunks.]

Gerardo [bending over her]. Helen! [To himself.] Well, after all.... [To Muller.] Have you called a doctor?

Manager. Yes, we had the doctor called at once. He will be here at any minute.

Gerardo [holding her under the arms]. Helen! Don't you know me any more? Helen! The doctor will be here right away, Helen. This is your Oscar.

Bell Boy [appearing in the door at the center]. Can't find any policeman, sir.

Gerardo [letting Helen's body drop back]. Well, if I can't get arrested, that settles it. I must catch that train and sing in Brussels to-morrow night. [He takes up his score and runs out through the center door, bumping against several chairs.]

 

[Curtain.]